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FORGET HEART DISEASE, diabetes and back problems. Researchers have identified a consequence of obesity that might finally get people's attention: sex. Obesity greatly impairs sexual quality of life for men and women, Duke University Medical Center researchers found in a quality of life study of about 1,200 participants, affecting enjoyment, desire, frequency of sex and even mechanics. Two-thirds of obese people seeking treatment reported sexual impairment in at least one of four areas, compared with about 5 percent of normal weight people. Obese people report sexual problems such as lack of desire, lack of enjoyment, avoiding sex and performance difficulty. Overall, women experienced more difficulties than men among both weight groups, but the gender differences were small compared with the disparity between the obese and normal weight study populations.

WHEN THE WEATHER turns cold, many people turn to a supplemental home heating appliance _ a space heater _ for added comfort. This handy device, however, can also lead to serious or fatal injury if not used properly. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these general tips for safe use of a space heater:

+ Keep children and pets away from supplementary heating appliances.

+ Never use a space heater overnight in the room where you are sleeping. Never leave a heating unit unattended.

+ Maintain proper ventilation in the room if you use a fuel-fired heater.

+ Place heaters at least 3 feet away from bedding, furniture, draperies and other combustible items.

+ Always follow the manufacturer's instructions to install, operate and maintain your heating appliance.

+ Keep a properly functioning smoke detector on each level of your home and close to sleeping areas.

KIDS CAN'T HELP but have fun with Marsha Wenig's YogaKids: Educating the Whole Child Through Yoga (Stewart, Tabori and Chang; $18). The yoga instructor turns downward-facing dog and other traditional movements into high-octane energy with her playful approach. Other titles in the series are available on VHS for $9 and DVD for $19. For more information about YogaKids, visit www.yogakids.com.

MALES ARE NEARLY twice as likely as females to be assaulted between first grade and the age of 21, but females who've endured such trauma are three times likelier to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of The New York Academy of Medicine. Researchers recruited 2,311 high-risk youths in the mid 1980s as they entered first grade in 19 public schools in a large mid Atlantic city. Nearly 75 percent of the youths were rerecruited upon reaching an average age of 21 and agreed to be interviewed about their lifetime history of trauma and PTSD. Sixty-two percent of males said they had experienced assaultive violence _ including being shot, stabbed, badly beaten, mugged, threatened with a weapon, raped, sexually assaulted or kidnapped. Though 33.7 percent of females had these experiences, their PTSD risk was more than three times higher than in males (23.5 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively) after an assault.

_ Compiled from Times staff and wire reports

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